The novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, written by an Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini and published in 2007, deals with the themes of redemption and friendship depicted in various parts of the novel. A Thousand Splendid Suns is an impressive, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love. Moreover, the novel relies on different stylistic and language conventions such as imagery, symbolism, and different perspectives of the protagonist to explore the themes of redemption and friendship. Similarly, the film, The Kite Runner directed by Marc Forster in 2007, also deals with the similar themes of redemption and friendship. The Kite Runner is a film that includes many components like friendship, betrayal, and the price of loyalty. It is about the bonds between fathers and sons, and the power of their lies. The themes are highlighted in many ways through the use of various film and visual techniques such as camera angles, setting, sound/ music, and verbal and non-verbal communication. Evidently, both Khaled Hosseini and Marc Forster satisfyingly explored the themes of redemption and friendship through the use of different techniques, which further indicates the similarities and differences between both texts.
Main ideas/ theme of texts
A defining similarity between the two texts is the way, in which they each convey the themes of redemption and friendship when Amir from the text The Kite Runner attempts to cope with his guilt by avoiding it, but this clearly does nothing to redeem himself, and thus his guilt endures. Amir further rescues Sohrab from Assef and brings him to the United States and provides his nephew with an opportunity at happiness and prosperity that his half brother was denied. Likewise, in A Thousand Splendid Suns, Mariam travels the road of redemption. She always felt the guilt from her mother’s death that was caused by her running away to Jalil. Also, after all those years of living a horrible life and enduring so much pain, she was able to be loved and love back when she finally be friends with Laila and her children, Aziza and Zalmai. As quoted, “She was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian, a mother, and a person of consequence at last”(Pg 329). As a result, both Hosseini and Forster explored the themes of redemption and friendship through the use of quotes and language features.
Style/ Form/ Purpose
Both texts have different style and form. The text A Thousand Splendid Suns is a fiction novel that is based on reality. It is the story of two women Mariam and Laila and the terrible things that happen to them in an environment where men have the most power supported by other religious people. This mainly displays the author’s ability to convey sadness and the tragic lives of these two women who are caught in the middle of a war. It is packed with raw emotion where the reader feels like he/ she is experiencing the horrors of war and the torturous life that the two women live. Contrastingly, The Kite Runner is a film based on the friendship of two boys, Hassan and Amir. However, everything changed due to a tragic incident that resulted in Amir betraying Hassan. Amir lived with the guilt until he was offered the opportunity to return to Kabul and save Hassan’s son, Sohrab. Amir’s journey of redemption showed that nothing was simple. However, the main difference between both texts is the plotline. While, A Thousand Splendid Suns is written with a style that creates a female perspective and discusses the difficulties of being a woman in Afghanistan. The Kite Runner is mostly about the difficulties of being a male in Afghanistan and the peer pressure as well as the decisions to make. Furthermore, both creators have engaged the target audience by including complex issues and relationships that retain interest and effectively conveying the theme of redemption and friendship. Hosseini accomplished this by explaining more about the women’s gender role and how men control their lives. This is supported through the use of dialogue when Mariam is not allowed to go to school. “What is the sense of schooling a girl like you? It’s like shining a spittoon. And you’ll learn nothing of value in those schools. There is only one, and they don’t teach it in school. Look at me. Pg18.” However, in the film, Amir is Pashtun; therefore, just like Laila, he is able to have an education, as opposed to Hassan who is Hazara, he is treated as unequal by society. To understand the relationship in Afghanistan and how it relates to the theme, the ability to recognize these issues is essential.
Setting in both texts is a very important stylistic feature as they are set in quite similar locations. The setting of the film brings the film to life and provides the film with a purpose, just like the novel, as to why the film is set in those sets. It also provides the audience with an idea of what will happen in a particular location. A Thousand Splendid Suns takes place from 1958 to the present in Herat, Afghanistan, and Gul Daman, a small village outside of Herat, and then Kabul, the capital city. There is also some time in Murree, Pakistan. The story is based on a historical period of about forty years, from the early 1970s, when Mariam was a teenager, to 2003, when Laila was again settled with her family in Kabul. Hosseini described the setting through the use of imagery while describing Rasheed’s house. “Rasheed’s house was much smaller than Jalil’s, but compared to Mariam and Nana’s kolba, it was a mansion. Pg57.” Furthermore, The Kite Runner is set in Kabul, Afghanistan from 1968-1981; Fremont California; Kabul, Afghanistan 2001. In the setting of Afghanistan, such as Pashtun vs. Hazara like (Amir vs. Hassan), controversial issues such as racism and social division are portrayed. Pashtuns are of a greater class, while Hazaras are discriminated against and regarded as inferior servants. The setting of Afghanistan forms the characters’ perspectives and beliefs, as well as the course the narrative will follow. It affects a story and the character as well because, for Amir and Hassan, it is a place of childhood memories and growth. However, the difference between the two settings is that at the end of the text A Thousand Splendid Suns, the setting is set in Peshawar after when Mariam kills her husband and sends Laila and her children to Peshawar. In contrast, the ending of the film is set in the United States when Amir tries to redeem himself by saving his nephew from Assef.
Different perspectives are presented in both texts. It is a significant language feature because it helps the audience to understand that the texts will have some sort of different perspective. Hosseini tells the story from two females’ perspectives and Forster tells the story from Amir’s perspective. A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner have very different perspectives. In A Thousand Splendid Suns, there is a larger cast of character and a dual perspective. Hosseini’s use of literary techniques helps portray the characters, and to convey the themes of redemption and friendship. The characters are constantly intersected in third person and personal narratives, demonstrating their marriage’s hardship to the same man, Rasheed, the typical cruel husband who beats and reduces the freedom of his wives. As Hosseini writes about a culture where women are denied from education, the right to work, the right to move freely, accesses to adequate healthcare, and the circumstances these characters are placed in highlights the injustice faced by Islamic women. The Kite Runner is from Amir’s perspective as he describes the events as an adult looking back on the past. Hosseini uses various camera angles from behind the protagonist to show the event from Amir’s perspective.
Both texts have used various symbols to create meaning and emotion in a story. Symbolism helps to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Throughout the novel, Hosseini uses multiple symbols to portray a life war-torn in Afghanistan to the audience. Hosseini uses a ‘shovel’ as a symbolism, symbolising Mariam’s freedom as well as her rage and frustration of being oppressed. As quoted, “and with that, Mariam brought the shovel. This time she gave it everything she had. Pg349” In contrast, Forster uses one of the main symbols, which is Sohrab, Hassan’s son. He is a symbol of Amir’s journey to redemption. Amir betrayed Hassan and therefore he is still living with the guilt. However, to relieve the guilt and pain, he must retrieve Sohrab to be able to finally redeem himself. Similarly, Mariam was also able to make peace with her past decisions. “Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensations of abundant peace that washed over her. Pg370” Mariam believed that dying while protecting others was a worthy reason to die. This was how Mariam was able to redeem her faults in the past.
Camera Angles/ Lighting
The film uses various camera angles to represent different emotions and dominance. A close-up shot is used to show Hassan’s face when he tries to save Amir and him from Assef that were bullying them just by using a slingshot. Therefore, the effectiveness of the slingshots can also symbolise the underdogs’ victory and the prevalence of good over evil. Whereas, Mariam uses a shovel as a source of weapon to kill Rasheed. Moreover, when Amir goes to Hassan’s room to hide the watch, there is different lighting and camera placement. By using a panning shot as Amir walks, it shows that Amir steps out of the sunlight and into the shade that slowly fades darker. This reveals that when seen in the sunlight shot, Amir goes from being moral to walking into a dark shadow that represents dishonesty. This is the effect it will have on their relationship. Hosseini, on the other hand, uses imagery that how Mariam steals money from Rasheed’s pocket and save it to escape from him. Forster further utilises another camera angle and lighting, “while searching for Hassan, Amir discovers some bullies cornering him in an alley. Too scared to do anything, Amir stays hidden from the boys but he escapes as he sees Hassan being raped. Amir pretends to be unaware of the incident in the alleyway.” Compared to the setting, dark alleyways create suspense, a darker mood, and serves as a sign for something bad. Dark alleyway in comparison to other surroundings builds suspense, creates a darker mood and serves as a sign for something bad. Shadows cast on Hassan’s face as he hides adding suspense to the scene.
Both Hosseini and Forster used sound and other stylistic features in their texts. Forster has used dynamic music for the exciting scenes and more smooth music for the more serious scenes the only difference is that the music is from the Arab culture. Many Arab instruments can be heard in the parts of the film. The music accompanies what they do when Amir and Hassan are shown in Kabul during their childhood. The music picks up, as the competition of flying gets more intense. Also, when Hassan runs down the Kite after winning, the music is fast-paced until it comes to a stop when his enemies confront him. After that scene, when Amir and Hassan no longer play together, the music becomes mellow and severe until Hassan and his father decide to leave the house. In a different way, Hosseini uses imagery such as, “Laila likes Murree’s cool, foggy mornings and its dazzling twilights, the dark brilliance of the sky at night; the green of pines and the soft brown of the squirrels darting up and down the sturdy tree trunks…Pg377”. The imagery portrayed in this passage reflected a change in Laila’s life, as she appreciated her surroundings and noticed the small details. This demonstrated the important change of Laila from disorder to sincerity.
Both the texts A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner were successful in demonstrating the main ideas of friendship and redemption through the use of camera angle, symbolism, different perspective, sound/music, characterisation, and setting. Both Hosseini and the Forster conveyed the themes of redemption and friendship through the use of literary and film techniques where each text fulfilled its purpose and engaged the audience.